Warnock Joins Lawsuit to Overturn Early Voting Restriction in Georgia

ATLANTA — Senator Raphael Warnock joined a lawsuit on Tuesday that seeks to overturn a rule that limits Saturday early voting in Georgia’s runoff election.

The law states that Georgia cannot hold elections two days after a holiday. For the state’s Senate runoff, to be held on Dec. 6 between Mr. Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, that means there will be no Saturday when voters can cast their ballots. The lone Saturday that falls into the early-voting period for the runoff is two days after Thanksgiving and one day after a holiday that once commemorated the birthday of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

A sweeping election law that passed in 2021 shortened the runoff window to four weeks from nine, limiting the days available for early voting.

Mr. Warnock signed on to the lawsuit with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Georgia Democratic Party. At a news conference on Tuesday, he encouraged counties to move forward with Saturday voting, including on the Saturday after Thanksgiving that is in question. Flanked by more than a dozen voting-rights advocates and community leaders, the senator argued that the rule was a misinterpretation because the law does not say that runoff elections are included in the restraint on voting after a holiday.

“A couple hundred thousand Georgians voted on Saturday,” Mr. Warnock said, pointing to the early-voting figures from the general election. “And now we’ve got three weeks left and they’re saying no Saturday voting. I think it is a disservice to the people of Georgia. And since we’re not hamstrung by the law, as we interpret it, people ought to have the ability to exercise their voting rights.”

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defended the law, which passed in 2016 with bipartisan support in the State House, as it stands. In a statement shared with The New York Times, he criticized Mr. Warnock and his allies for “seeking to change Georgia law right before an election based on their political preferences.”

“Instead of muddying the water and pressuring counties to ignore Georgia law, Senator Warnock should be allowing county election officials to continue preparations for the upcoming runoff,” the statement concludes.

The mandatory early-voting window for the runoff election runs for five weekdays, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. Counties can opt for three extra days of early voting for the runoff, and several, including Georgia’s four largest counties, in the Metro Atlanta area, have begun planning for those dates.

At the same time, voting rights groups have been pushing for election officials across the state to allow the early-voting period to begin as soon as possible and expand voting hours. Several groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center, issued letters to election supervisors in all 159 of Georgia’s counties with that entreaty.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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